|Laxey village is situated on the east coast of the Isle of Man. The village extends
for just over 2 kilometres from the mine workings in its upper reaches -
identifiable by the famous Laxey Wheel, along the steep sided glen in a south
easterly direction, to the picturesque and unspoilt tiny harbour at the North end
of a wide bay. It is from here i.e. 'Old Laxey' the original historic settlement of
fishermen's crofts that the village has evolved.
|The Great Laxey Mine
|The Laxey mine was extensive and at its peak the Great Laxey Mining Company employed
over 600 miners. Consequently the mining company became responsible for the establishment
and development of much of the village as it exists to this day.
During this time, two main areas
were developed. First being the harbour area: used to bring in supplies as well as transporting
the lead and zinc from the mines off Island, and secondly along the valley towards the main mining
areas, located about a mile inland from the harbour.
In addition a number of larger properties
were constructed on the hills around the valley, these were typically the homes of the managers
and supervisors who ran and operated the mine, many of which are identified as part of the
|The Great Laxey Mine Railway
|Mining for lead and zinc began at Laxey in about 1780. By the mid 1870s the Great Laxey Mine was one
of the richest and most successful metal mines in Britain. Shafts had been sunk to depths of over 2000
feet deep and nearly 1000 men, together with a few women and young lads, worked at the mine.
main level of the mine was known as the Adit Level. It entered the hillside beneath the Laxey Wheel,
connecting with each of the shafts deep underground and having a maximum length of nearly 1 1/2 miles.
A tramway ran along the entire length of the adit level and was used to carry the mined ore out of the
mine to the Washing Floors where the ore was prepared for sale.
The tramway wagons were originally
hauled by ponies but in 1877 they were replaced by two 19 inch gauge steam locomotives built by
Stephen Lewin of Poole, Dorset. Named Ant and Bee they remained in use until the mine closed in
1929 and were broken up for scrap a few years later.
In 1999, the Laxey and Lonan Heritage Trust
began the restoration of the surface section of
the former tramway. A bequest from the estate
of the late Lt Col R S Glenn funded the building
of two fully working replicas of the original Ant
and Bee. The restored Great Laxey Mine
Railway was officially opened on 25th
September, 2004. Passengers can now ride in a
tiny carriage along the line where loaded wagons
of ore were once hauled from the mine.
railway, a quarter of a mile in length, runs up the
valley from the former Washing Floors, now the
Valley Gardens, to the main adit entrance where
there is a picnic site, footpath and information
boards explaining the mining features.
The Laxey Wheel is only a short walk away.
The line runs beneath the
main Laxey to Ramsey road
and the Manx Electric
Railway through the
longest railway tunnel on
Steam trains normally run
on Saturdays and Bank
Holidays, from Easter until
the end of September.
Please check with Laxey
for further details.
|The Laxey Wheel was designed by
Manx engineer Robert Casement.
The wheel’s axle was forged by the Mersey
Iron Works of Liverpool but the cast iron
rims were made on the Island by Gelling’s
Foundry at Douglas. The timbers of the
wheel were shaped by Manx artisans and
the whole structure was assembled here
on the Island. The wheel has a diameter
of over 22 metres, (72 feet 6 inches), and
a width of 1.8 metres (6 feet). It is
capable of pumping 1136 litres (250
gallons) of water per minute from a
depth of almost 457.2 metres (1,500 feet).
The mine shaft from which the water was
pumped was sited about 410 metres (450
yards) from the great wheel. The power
from the wheel was transmitted to the
pumping mechanism by a series of rods
supported by and running along an
imposing masonry viaduct.
The official opening of this huge wheel
took place in September 1854 when the
Wheel was set in motion by the
Honourable Charles Hope, the Lieutenant
Governor of the Island. The wheel was
named ‘Lady Isabella’ in honour of the
Governor’s wife. The 150th anniversary of
the Lady Isabella was celebrated in 2004
when a re-enactment of the original
ceremony took place at the Wheel.
Since 1989 The Lady Isabella has been
administered by Manx National Heritage
and is a fantastic starting point for the
|Old Washing Floors
|An essential part of the mining process was the separation of the waste stone from the
precious ores in preparation for its transportation to the market place. These processes
were carried out on the area known as the ‘washing floors’. The entire ‘dressing’ process
was carried out by water power and four water wheels operated in this area, driving
machinery known as ‘jiggers, crushers & buddles’.
During the peak years of production
over 300 people (men, women & boys) worked on the washing floors preparing the ore
for shipment. Although much of the machinery was dismantled following the Second
World War, there are still many areas of interest & clues to the former use of the site.
Ore was brought out of the mine in ore trucks,
hauled by one of two steam engines named
‘Ant’ or ‘Bee’. The ore was tipped from the
wagon down the stone chutes known as
‘teams’ into storage bunkers below where
the ore awaited the first stage of the dressing
process. During the 1870s the original set
of teams were abandoned and new teams
were constructed at the northern end of
the washing floors at right angles to the
Ore was taken from the teams to a grate,
located near the position of the present stone
stage area, to be thoroughly washed. The
mixture of stone and ore was broken by hand
into small pieces and tipped onto a large
revolving wooden table known as the ‘chat’
table, where waste stone was hand picked and
After undergoing a number of
mechanical crushing processes the ore was
tipped into the ‘jiggers’. These were, in their
simplest form, large sieves into which the ore
was placed and which were then vibrated in
wooden boxes filled with water. The ‘jigging’
process caused the ores and remaining waste stone to separate into layers due to their
The waste stone removed from the chat table,
crushers and jiggers was tipped next to the
river, on the upstream side of the main road.
Eventually the heap of stones, known as ‘the
deads’, towered over the houses of Dumbells
Terrace. The deads remained a conspicuous
feature of the Laxey valley until the Second
World War. Some stone was removed to be
used on a scheme to widen the northern end
of Douglas Promenade. The vast majority of
the stone was removed to be used as infill for
the runway of the RAF station constructed at
Jurby in the north of the Island. By 1943 the
deads had all but disappeared.
|The Snaefell Mine
|The Snaefell Mine was situated
at the head of the Laxey Valley
on the lower slope of Snaefell
Mountain. The remains of the
mine can be seen today from
the tramcars of the Snaefell
Mountain Railway as they climb
towards the Bungalow station.
In 1865 a 15.4 metre (501/2 feet) diameter
waterwheel was built to pump water from
the mine. It was supplied by L & G Howell
of the Hawarden Ironworks in Flintshire.
When the mine finally closed in 1908, the waterwheel was sold and then re-erected at
Blisland in Cornwall, being used to pump slurry from a china clay pit. In the 1970s, the
components of the wheel were preserved by the Trevithick Society and were stored for a
number of years at a Welsh mining museum.
In 2003, the Laxey Mines Research Group, in conjunction with the Laxey and Lonan
Heritage Trust, reached agreement with the Trevithick Society to return the components to
Laxey and re-erect the waterwheel in the Valley Gardens, the former Great Laxey Mine
washing floors. All the waterwheel components were fully refurbished, new woodwork was
fashioned, a new water supply and aqueduct were constructed and a new footbridge placed
over the river. An appeal to raise funds for the restoration proved very popular and the
waterwheel was rebuilt and officially set
in motion as Lady Evelyn on 20th
The restoration team together with
Evelyn Jones whom the Wheel was
named after are pictured left.
For further details of the Snaefell
Waterwheel, log onto www.snaefellwheel.com
|Old Laxey is on a little flat
between steep heights at the
mouth of the Laxey River.
Today the original village centre is a popular spot
for visitors. The promenade area is quite
undeveloped and the bay offers a long stretch of
sandy beach and dozens of rock pools for
exploration. During the summer months young
people enjoy swimming out to the wooden raft
shackled to the foreshore.
Following the zig zag path from the southern end
of the promenade and continuing over Old
Laxey Hill one can pick up the electric railway at
‘South Cape’ stop.
From Laxey Headland one can access the Raad
Ny Foillan - the way of the gull which is clearly
marked with the gull on a blue sign. This long
distance coastal walk of some 95 miles can be
walked in 5 days though you might want
to allow a bit longer.
Perhaps the best views of Old Laxey are obtained
by approaching from the sea. During the
summer months the Island’s largest coastal
passenger vessel - the traditional m.v. Karina
operates cruises to Laxey Harbour. The Karina
which is included on the prestigious National
Maritime Museum’s register of historic ships
regularly departs from Douglas for a 3 hour
return trip to the seaside village of Old Laxey.
The cruise passes many famous landmarks
including the Tower of Refuge, Derby Castle,
Onchan Head, Groudle Glen, Clay head, Garwick
Cove then across the bay to Laxey Harbour. Most
of the way you will see magnificent cliffs with
marine and bird life. The return trip allows
about one hour ashore at picturesque Laxey.
|The village links with our Viking friends indicates that Laxey was a bountiful
stopping off place. “Laxey” comes from the old Norse “laxa” (a in Old Norse
means river and is common in the Island, whilst “lax” means salmon.)
The name originally denoted the river and not the settlement but the two have come to mean the
same. Salmon migrate upstream from Laxey harbour favouring the Glen Roy tributary (at its
junction opposite the Woollen Mill). The stone footbridge within Laxey Glen is a good vantage
point from which to observe the salmon making this arduous journey in late evening during the
autumn months. Spawning will take place in the area of Laxey Glen where the Department of
Agriculture Fisheries and Forestry also maintain a salmon
hatchery to boost the river stock. River fishing opens on
1st April through until the end of September for brown
trout salmon and sea trout, with an extension to the end
of October for migratory fish only. The ideal time to land
salmon or sea trout is late summer / early autumn.
Licences, required for fishing all inland waters, are
available from the Post offices, tackle shops, or the
Department of Agriculture Fisheries and Forestry who
manage the Laxey Glen.
This annual event is held on the last Saturday
of June. Traditionally regional fairs were held
on the feast day of the local saint, and were
preceded by a church service in the early
Laxey fair was one of these, the most
important one in this part of the Island, held
on St Lonan’s Day (August 5th) at the foot of
the river meadows, where the harbour is now.
It continued well into the 19th century when,
with the expansion of the mines, it was
gradually crowded out and it lapsed for many
The revival of the Laxey Fair in the
location of the “Old Washing Floors” is again a
well attended annual event, the local
schoolchildren parade in costume
acknowledging the village’s mining heritage.
|King Orry’s Grave
|The largest known megalithic tomb on the
island lies in the garden of a private cottage.
The Cairn (a conical heap of stones built as a
monument or a landmark grave) is made of
coloured sandstone with a forecourt of 12
metres across and 4 metres deep. It contains
three chambers once filled with burials, when
excavated only one burial and bowl survived.
King Orry’s Grave, as it is commonly known,
tells something of the residents who lived on
the Isle of Man during the Neolithic times over
4000 years ago. The site was built by farmers as
a memorial to their ancestors. Ceremonies held
on the site left traces of hearth and flint. This
burial place dates from long before the period
of the Orry Kings, who were buried at Iona,
Furness Abbey, and Rushen Abbey.
Download a printable Laxey Visitor Guide:
>> low resolution (PDF)
>> high resolution (PDF)
Much of the Information on these pages comes from a printed brochure
coordinated by Laxey Village Commissioners
with kind assistance from Andrew Scarffe of the
Laxey & Lonan Heritage Trust, and Patricia
Newton and Martin Faragher who devised the
trail. Photographs are courtesy of Daniel Kneale,
Andrew Scarffe, Sarah Henthorn, Patricia
Newton and Peter Burgess. The production of
this brochure was funded jointly with Isle of